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International Seminar Series: Chocolate producers and Equal Exchange

This fall, the International Seminar Series will focus on food justice and sustainability. Events are free and open to the public, and occur every Wednesday from noon-1 p.m.

Chocolate will be at the center of attention when Cristina Liberati, project manager at Equal Exchange, speaks at the International Seminar Series with guests José David Contreras Monjarás and Zara Elizabeth Saavedra Gomez. The group will present “Creating Inclusive Conversations about Chocolate Quality with Cacao Producers: An Avenue to Food Justice” at noon Wednesday, October 25, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Each presenter has a hand in strengthening small-farmer cooperatives in their supply chain and engaging with them in new and innovative ways. In order for small cacao farmers to succeed in international markets, their cooperatives must not only collect and process their product, but must also provide them with the knowledge and tools that help them to operate viable businesses, raise productivity levels, and add quality and value to those products.

Liberati is the grant projects manager at Equal Exchange, and also a member of the chocolate team there. Her work primarily focuses on the administration of a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Co-operative Development Program with cacao and coffee producers. This grant centers on issues related to quality, productivity, and capitalization in Peru, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Contreras Monjaras is the quality and innovation manager for ACOPAGRO, a cacao farmer co-operative in Juanjuí, Perú. ACOPAGRO is the largest exporter of organic cacao beans in Peru, and a leading organization in the co-operative movement. Saavedra Gomez is the cacao quality specialist for Equal Exchange’s USAID CDP Project. She has over 15 years of experience in cacao value chains, working predominantly with cooperatives on planting, post harvest processing, quality control, and chocolate making.

November 1:
Illinois State’s Associate Professor of Anthropology Gina Hunter will present “Insects as ‘Future’ Food: Who Benefits?” at noon Wednesday, November 1, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center. Hunter will discuss edible insects from an environmental and social justice perspective.

Over the past decade, there has been increasing interest in edible insects as “the future of food” in North America and Europe. New insect food products are marketed as especially nutritious and sustainable protein sources. Around the world, development experts have argued that edible insects can provide a solution to global problems of food shortages, malnutrition, and natural resource overexploitation, as well as providing a potential income source for small-scale entrepreneurs in even the most impoverished communities (FAO 2010).

Hunter is a cultural anthropologist in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her scholarship includes research on women’s health in Brazil, pedagogy, and ethnographic methods.

November 8:
Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Richard Wilk of Indiana University in Bloomington, will give a talk titled “The Morality of Food” at noon Wednesday, November 8, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Wilk co-manages the Indiana University Food Institute and helped found the Ph.D. program in food anthropology. He has lived and worked in Belize for more than 40 years, but has recently begun fieldwork in Singapore with a Fulbright teaching and research fellowship. Trained as an economic and ecological anthropologist, his research has covered many different aspects of global consumer culture.

“Every day Americans think about foods that are ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ and see some kinds of eating as virtuous while others make them feel guilty,” said Wilk. “Many of us grow up feeling like wasting food is evil, and feeding other people is generous. There is every reason for food to have a close connection with morality—every religion has something to say about what we should and should not eat, and sharing food is the most fundamental act that binds us together.”

November 15:
Delving into the secrets of cookbooks from the 1600s will be the topic of the next International Seminar Series. Carolyn Nadeau, the Byron S. Tucci Professor of Hispanic Studies at Illinois Wesleyan Universitywill explore “Constructions of Taste in Francisco Martínez Montiño’s 1611 Cookbook” at noon Wednesday, November 15, in the Prairie Room of Bone Student Center. 

Nadeau examines Montiño’s court cookbook, Arte de cocina, pastelería, vizcochería y conservería [The art of cooking, pie making, pastry making and preserving], to offer insights into the concepts of taste as a reflection of one’s aesthetic judgment. “Data analysis of close to 5,000 individual references to ingredients allows today’s scholars and gastronomes to gain access to what was being prepared in the royal kitchens,” said Nadeau, who noted scholars can establish for the first time the culinary scaffolding for what was eaten at court in early 17th century Spain.

The presentation will explore the food habits of the king and queen and questions of taste among the aristocracy. “In short, it provides a map of selective taste that both guided future cooks and today reveals to scholars those very taste preferences at court in early modern Spain,” she said.

November 29:
Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection, will discuss eating locally for the International Seminar Series. She will present “Slow Food: Act Globally, Eat Locally” at noon Wednesday, November 29, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Brockman’s organization, The Land Connection, works to save farmland, train new farmers, and connect consumers with fresh local foods. She is the author of  The Seasons on Henry’s Farm, which was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2010. She has been honored with a Green Award from Chicago Magazine, a Good Eating Award from the Chicago Tribune, and a rural achievement award from Lt. Governor Sheila Simon. Her family has farmed in Central Illinois for four generations.

Her talk will explore the Slow Food movement, which began in Italy in 1986 to highlight connections between the food we eat and its impact on people and the planet. As an “eco-gastronomic” movement, Slow Food connects environmental sustainability (eco) with culture and food (gastronomy). Today, Slow Food has over 150,000 members and is active in more than 150 countries. Overall, Slow Food seeks to establish local and global food systems that are “good, clean, and fair.”

The International Seminar Series offers the Illinois State campus and Bloomington-Normal communities weekly opportunities to learn about a wide range of international topics. Guest speakers are usually experts in their fields across a range of disciplines who cover a wide array of cultural, historical, political, and social topics. Noha Shawki from the Department of Politics and Government, Gina Hunter from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Kathryn Sampeck from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology have worked with the Office of International Studies and Programs to coordinate this semester’s series.

For additional information, contact the Office of International Studies at (309) 438-5276.

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